Brazilian investor to provide $80M to build MLS stadium in Orlando

by: Orlando City Soccer Club Updated:

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Orlando City SC announced Monday that Brazilian native Flávio Augusto da Silva has made an $80 million investment and future commitment to the Orlando City franchise.

The investment will be used for the club's share of a private/publicly funded multipurpose soccer stadium in downtown Orlando and future acquisition of an MLS franchise.

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians visit Orlando," said da Silva. "It's our No. 1 destination in the U.S. and us Brazilians, besides being famous for our friendliness and willingness to buy at the outlets and malls, we are also a nation that loves soccer."

The new owner gives Orlando a major advantage in its drive to be named the next MLS expansion franchise.

To secure a move up to the major leagues, MLS requires clubs to have, among other things, a fiscally stable and established ownership group and a stadium seating between 18,000 and 25,000.

The Citrus Bowl and its upcoming redevelopment do not meet these needs; therefore, the club is on record stating that an 18,500-seat downtown stadium is its goal.

But even with the boost from da Silva, just how a 19,000-seat, $95 million stadium will be paid for is still unclear.

So far, discussions have included $25 million in hotel-tax money from Orange County and $20 million from the city, mostly in land costs.

When Channel 9 asked if it's worth it, Lions President Phil Rawlins pointed to a recent economic impact study that showed the soccer stadium and MLS franchise could generate $1.3 billion over 30 years.

"We believe we can make Orlando City a top global brand in this game in the world," said Rawlins.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott came out in favor of Orlando's MLS bid last week, stating, "I am very supportive and will do everything I can do at the state level."

MLS Commissioner Don Garber visited Orlando in March 2012, leaving the town after meeting with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

Impressed by the support from Lions fans at a town-hall-style meeting, Garber said, "It's not a matter of if, but a case of when" in regards to a franchise in central Florida.

The club has been in close communication with Garber and the MLS for more than two years now.

Leaders are staying quiet about where a new stadium might go but they've narrowed it down to fewer than five sites.